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Imbler running back Joe Griffin, middle, has followed his blockers for 1,137 yards and 30 touchdowns this season while leading the Panthers to a 5-1 overall record. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
Imbler’s Joe Griffin is tearing apart opposing defenses this season
Imbler’s Joe Griffin is quickly proving himself to be a man among boys on the football field this season.
After rushing for 1,669 yards in 10 games as a sophomore last season, Griffin already has 1,137 yards through six games this season, the majority of which he hasn’t played the second half because the Panthers have been well in control.
He’s carried the ball only 91 times, which comes out to 12.5 yards per carry.
“I run fast, hard and a lot of the credit goes to the blockers,” Griffin said. “There’s always holes open and somewhere to go.”
Most of the time those holes lead Griffin to the end zone.
Griffin has scored 30 touchdowns this season, including 22 rushing, seven receiving and an interception returned for six points just for kicks.
Twice this season, Griffin found the end zone eight times in a game, and another time he visited pay dirt seven times.
He’s also developed as a receiver out of the backfield. After catching seven passes for 69 yards last season, Griffin has 17 catches for 391 yards already this year.
“Joe works hard, and he follows his blockers so well,” Imbler head coach Lee Lowe said. “He has that sixth sense of knowing where the hole is at or where it’s going to be at.”
Lowe said that Griffin’s natural ability helps him shine on the field.
“Sometimes he makes the coach look good with his athletic ability out there,” Lowe said. “He’s one of those kids. But the guys up front have done a good job as far as getting more aggressive and staying on people.”
The Panthers are ranked No. 2 at the 1A level and are 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Old Oregon League. Imbler had an early-season setback at Dufur, where the Panthers lost 56-28.
Griffin said that loss was a motivating factor for his teammates and himself.
“It was good for us because we knew what we were getting into,” Griffin said. “We knew what we needed to do the rest of the season. It was an eye-opener for us.”
Lowe said that while he is proud of what Griffin is accomplishing this season, the coach wants to make sure the Panthers aren’t a one-trick pony.
“Hopefully it’s not one-man show sort of a deal,” Lowe said. “We’re trying to be as balanced as we can. But (Joe) just makes things happen. He’s one of those kids who can hurt you in a hurry given the right chance.”
Imbler has three games remaining on the regular-season schedule. The Panthers are at Joseph Friday before hosting Cove and traveling to Halfway to play Pine Eagle.
Last season Imbler put together an undefeated regular season before losing to Camas Valley in the state semifinals.
If the Panthers are to get further this season, they will need a heavy dose of Griffin to do it.
So far, he’s delivered.